Movie Review: The Wind Rises

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An anime biography of Jiro Horikoshi, an aeronautical engineer who designed planes during the second world war.

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Hayao Miyakazi, 2013

As a young boy growing up in a small Japanese town, Jiro collects information on aeroplanes and meets his hero, Spanish plane designer Caproni, in his vivid dreams. He works hard and goes to university to study engineering, and on a train one day he meets a girl whose hat he saves from being blown away. Then he saves her…maid or something…when an earthquake hits and the train crashes and the…nanny?…breaks her ankle. He carries her on his back. It’s very noble. Jiro spends some years working his way up through the ranks of plane designing despite Japan apparently being far behind, technology-wise, and then meets the woman again and they fall in love. Then the movie goes on for a million more hours.

The-Wind-Rises-Poster

I’m not a huge fan of anime at the best of times (and I saw this with subtitles in its original Japanese, not the English dub). I lived in Japan for a long time when I was a kid and the style doesn’t sit right with me. I have seen anime movies that I do like, in spite of my general bias against the style…and this is decidedly not one of them. This sprawling, epic bioflick would be boring in any format, documenting as it does the life of a man who was Obsessed With Planes and had a Tragic Marriage and did pretty much nothing else. Unsurprisingly, the fact that the film deals with the second world war at all stirred up a lot of controversy in Japan, but the war is brushed past surprisingly easily considering the whole film is about a man who designed war planes. There’s a bit of moralising about art and beauty no matter what it’s used for, but it leaves a nasty aftertaste.

A nastier aftertaste is left by the story of his tragic love interest Nahoko, who is suffering from tuberculosis (but don’t worry, he bravely and selflessly loves her anyway). She has no characterisation except for being pretty, subservient and tragically kind. Jiro is portrayed as a heroic, kind soul who only wants to make and love beautiful things, even as he works tirelessly on the ultimate fighter while his wife wastes away at home. This goes on for a long time, as do endless scenes of planes that possibly only plane enthusiasts can enjoy or understand; if you’re a fan of flanges and rivets, you’ll find this movie riveting. (Ha, ha.) The movie looks beautiful, even though I’m not a fan of the way they have painted backdrops with cartoony foregrounds, so if you like gorgeous animation, this movie may also enchant. If not, it’s just a movie that starts strong with imagination and becomes less and less interesting over its incredibly long runtime.

The Wind Rises on IMDb

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